By MaryKay “MK” Grueneberg | STC Fellow
When my son was away at Marine Corps boot camp in the winter of 2007, I was searching for something I could do to help our troops. Another Marine mom suggested I volunteer for the USO. I thought that was a great idea, and I signed up right away. One day, shortly after starting volunteering at the USO center at O’Hare airport, I had the honor of attending my first military homecoming. I joined several other USO volunteers and went to the gate with balloons and flowers to cheer for an Army unit just returning from Iraq. We got everyone involved in the cheers and applause. It was a great time. There was also a group of bikers that joined us. One of the bikers said to me, “If you think this was cool, you should join us when we do a Welcome Home escort.” That biker was a member of Warriors’ Watch Riders. I joined him the following week on a Welcome Home mission for a young Marine returning from Iraq. I was immediately hooked and have been a member ever since.
Warriors’ Watch Riders (WWR) is not a “motorcycle club.” Rather, we are a group of bikers, non-bikers (those in cars are called “cagers”), veterans, and non-veterans, but most of all, Americans. Our missions are quite varied, but always with one goal: bringing attention to our troops.
We do flag lines and escorts for many different reasons. We provide Welcome Home escorts for individuals or whole units of troops returning from deployment. We do send-offs for troops who are getting ready to deploy overseas. We stand a flag line of protection and honor for dignified transfers when our fallen return home. We also provide flag lines and escorts at funerals and memorials at cemeteries. We do long overdue welcomes homes for those veterans who never received a proper “Thank You”—especially for our WWII and Vietnam veterans. When we cheer and yell “welcome home,” many of the Veterans cry at the sight. So many times, as I hug or shake the hand of a WWII Veteran, I hear “This is the first time anyone has ever said that to me.” And that is why I do what I do.
One of my favorite “belated” Welcome Home missions was for a couple of WWII Veterans celebrating their 71st wedding anniversary. They were both Army veterans who met during the war. She was his nurse when he was injured, and it was love at first sight. A group of about 40 motorcycles and a dozen cars showed up at their home to let them know their service was never forgotten, and we gave them a long overdue “welcome home.” Tears flowed all around, but it was a wonderful mission.
I deal with technical communication all day during my 9-5 life. But, in my off hours, I deal with another kind of communication—one where I get to proudly bring awareness to our troops, one soldier at a time. The vision statement of the WWR is: “The Warriors’ Watch Riders envision a day when every member of the United States Armed Forces, at home and abroad, and their families, feel appreciated, honored, respected, and loved by the citizens they risk their lives to protect.”
I am honored at every mission, and a tear comes to my eye every time I get a chance to say “welcome home.” I am doing my part to make sure that “Never again will an American warrior be scorned or ignored.”
MARYKAY GRUENEBERG (email@example.com) has been a professional technical communicator for 35 years. She is a Certified Professional Technical Communicator and an STC Fellow. She believes in the importance of communication in every facet of life and enjoys helping to demystify technical things. She currently is a Senior User Assistance Developer at SAP. She has presented internally at SAP, as well as at LavaCon, Spectrum, and Leadership Days at STC Summits.